Posts Tagged ‘bloggers’

Legal Ruling Sends Harsh Message to Blogosphere

In a story that has been tweeted more than 2,000 times in only a few days, a U.S. District Court judge ruled a blogger has to pay a hefty $2.5 million to an investment firm because she isn’t a “real journalist” in the eyes of the law.

Crystal Cox is the writer and owner of several blogs, some of which were critical of the Obsidian Finance Group. Obsidian claimed defamation and sued for $10-million. In the end, it was awarded $2.5 million. Cox claimed she had insider sources, and one blog post out of the many was what forced the judge’s decision.

Cox’s refusal to name her source and the fact she isn’t protected under Oregon’s media shield law made this a harsh ruling for the blogosphere, which is why it’s attracting so much attention.

The divide between bloggers and journalists appeared to have narrowed but in the past year or so it has also widened. Legal rulings of this nature could become the norm if bloggers don’t adjust and adapt, and ultimately learn that organizations will come after you if they feel you are unjustly writing about them.

There is another lesson in here: No one blogs in a vacuum. Sometimes bloggers feel they are publishing in cyberspace and that no one important is paying attention. Bloggers need to take a page from a journalist’s handbook by having the same level of  integrity and accountability.

Every U.S. state treats bloggers differently. Some states have revised their media shield laws to protect bloggers and online publishers. Until there is uniformity, it is upon the individual blogger to protect themselves and blog honestly.

As Crystal Cox learned, there is more than your credibility at stake.

Do Brands Really Get Bloggers Yet?

“Many brands don’t have a clue how to work with bloggers. And bloggers don’t know how to work with brands.”
- Donna Marie Antoniadis, co-founder and chief operating officer with ShesConnected.com, which organized a conference last week in Toronto that brought together 200 of “Canada’s most influential digital women” and many of the country’s biggest brands. (Source: The Toronto Star)

Antoniadis’ quote is interesting and surprising given blogging has been around for nearly 10 years, and most companies recognize the growing importance of bloggers within their communications and marketing programs.

At this point in the game, you would think that brands would have a solid grasp on how to deal with bloggers – much they have a good understanding of how to deal with reporters.

But there is some truth in Antoniadis’ contention. For many brands, the extent of their blogger relations is probably limited to top-tier or popular blogs, which tend to operate and look like traditional media. This makes these blog easy for brands to identify and target, particularly if there are high-profile bloggers that focus on particular topics or sectors.

The challenge for many brands is reaching bloggers beyond the top layer. Part of the problem is there can be thousands of blogs, and it can be difficult to determine how much traffic they attract and how consistently they create high-quality content. This can make it daunting or impossible for brands to discover the right bloggers without spending an inordinate amount of time and effort.

For bloggers who don’t have a lot of contact with brands, it can be difficult to capture their attention or even get brands aware they exist. Many bloggers have little, if no, experience with brands so likely don’t know how to approach brands or who to approach. It means bloggers operate in isolation as opposed to being part of the brand mix.

So what can be done to close the gap between brands and bloggers?

Perhaps one of the easiest way to fix the gap is getting brands to embrace bloggers or, at least, provide them with an opportunity to get themselves into the spotlight.

It might be something as simple as having a form on a Web site in which bloggers can provide information about themselves so brands can get enough information to determine whether a particular blogger should be included without outreach programs.

The form needs to be obvious and accessible given many bloggers have no experience in dealing with brands or media relations departments. The forms also need to simple to complete but provide brands with enough data and information to figure out who needs to be inside the digital tent.

This is just one approach but the bigger idea is figuring out how brands and bloggers can establish and build new relationships.

The Perils of Pissing Off Bloggers

So let’s get this one straight: a bunch of food and mommy bloggers were invited to an Italian restaurant, Sotto Terra, in New York City to eat a meal prepared by celebrity chef George Duran, and receive some insight into food trends from Phil Lempert, a food industry analyst.

After finishing their meals, the bloggers were told that – surprise, surprise – the food wasn’t prepared by Duran but, instead, it was frozen entrees made by ConAgra Foods’ Marie Callender’s brand. And, oh yeah, the meal was captured by hidden video-cameras. (The New York Times has all the juicy details.)

Needless to say, the bloggers went ballistic that they had made been pranked. And unlike the people who had been caught in earlier ad campaigns eating Domino’s Pizza instead of restaurant-made pizza, the fooled and embarassed food and mommy bloggers beefed their complaints on their blogs for the whole world to see and read.

So it begs the question: what was ConAgra and its PR advisors thinking? Did they think the food and mommy bloggers would laugh heartily at being made looked like fools and lavish praise on ConAgra for being so creative and funny?

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but it doesn’t work that way. Instead, it demonstrates that bloggers are still not getting the respect they deserve. I mean, would ConAgra pull the same stunt on a group of reporters from the New York Times, Washington Post and Gourmet Magazine? The answer is a resounding “No”.

It is difficult to believe that even though bloggers have become respected reporters and editorialists, they still get treated like children at a party, who should just be happy to have been invited.

We’re living in a world in which newsrooms are shrinking while bloggers are filling the content void, along with people “reporting” on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc. Either ConAgra got some very bad advice, they don’t understand bloggers, or they just screwed up.

In any event, here’s some advice for companies looking to engage with bloggers:

1. Treat bloggers the same way you would treat a reporter. Some bloggers have large audiences and some have a small readership but most bloggers are serious and passionate about what they write about. In that way, they are just as credible as a reporter.

2. Do your homework. Not every blogger is the same. Some are serious, some are crazy, some write a lot, some offer thought-provoking columns, some rant, some want to make money, and some do it for fun. The key consideration for companies getting a good handle on the blogging ecosystem, and then identifying the bloggers that matter most to them. After that, they should embrace rule #1.

3. Provide bloggers with the same kind of resources and access as reporters. In other words, bring them inside the tent rather than on the outside looking in. Keep in mind, it doesn’t have to be all of them. Just like not every reporter will get an interview with the CEO or an invite to a press conference, bloggers should be treated the same way. While many bloggers aren’t looking to make money from blogging, their “compensation” can simply be a recognition of their efforts.

4. Don’t be afraid of bloggers. It is surprising to hear corporate executives still talk about how blogging is the Wild West and how bloggers are unruly gunslingers that can’t be managed or trusted. If you do your homework and treat bloggers with respect, they’ll probably respect you right back.

5. Recognize that bloggers can help your company just as much as you can help them. They can help you spread the word, provide feedback, evangelize and solid editorial coverage. If bloggers are treated as a potential asset, it increases the chance of them providing a good return on investment.

6. Remember most bloggers don’t make money from blogging. The compensation consists of other things: respect, vanity, access, recognition, invitations, etc.

What are some other “rules” that companies need to have front and centre when dealing with bloggers?

Why are Bloggers still Fighting for Respect?

The media landscape is a bit of an old boys club and, as a whole, can be resistant to change. This being said, it is not surprising that journalists still treat bloggers as if they are high school journalists trying to break open the story of the cafeteria mystery meat.

Fortunately for the rest of the world, many bloggers are not only seen as credible but also as trusted news breakers. Of course with Quebec seeking special status for certain journalists and regulating the media, it seems bloggers are still fighting the good fight. Quebec is an example of not listening to peoples’ wants and trying to control the flow of information. It’s an archaic way of thinking.

Bloggers have come a long way in the past 10 years, and I am never surprised when I see them as guests on many radio and TV talk shows. Sports and entertainment bloggers seem to have gained the most clout within the media, with technology and political bloggers also being leaned on heavily by media outlets while gaining impressive readership.

Last year, a former employee turned blogger of the New York Islanders was kicked out of a press box for writing negatively about the team. This story was well publicized and helped prove the reach and influence of the blogosphere. Think about how nervous management for the Islanders must have felt to actually kick this man out of a game. A decade ago, a negative blog post about a sports teams would have come and gone without a blink of the eye.

Another interesting turn of events is how many journalists are turning to blogging when their careers hit a crossroads, or they simply want to share an unfiltered opinion. Maybe blogging is the next wave of pure, unadulterated journalism and we just need to accept and embrace it.

Ultimately, it will be hordes of readers who will have the final say as to who is the trusted news source and opinion leader. The house money is probably not on bloggers, but the smart money just might be.

The Harsh Economics of Free Content

A few years when I worked for a blogging network, one of the biggest challenges was figuring out how to pay writers.

Should they be get a flat fee, per pageview and/or a percentage of advertising for their work? Complicating the situation was the fact there were people with high-traffic blogs, and hard-working writers will low-traffic blogs. It raised the thorny issue about whether popularity of a blog should mean more pay.

The question of blogger compensation raised its head again last week when the Huffington Post was acquired by AOL for $315-million.  A big part of the Huffington Post’s success is the great – and free – content generated by an army of writers. Whereas some publications struggle with the economics of creating content, Huffington Post has no problems. Seeking an opportunity to get their thoughts and names in front of millions of people, people writing for Huffington Post are happy to do it for free.

The dynamic of this cozy club changed, however, after the deal with some writers feeling the sting of watching Huffington Post’s investors be handsomely rewarded while the people writing for the popular online publication received nothing. There seemed to be a feeling that Arianna Huffington and her fellow investors should share the wealth.

Maybe this “what about me?” sentiment was caused by the abrupt nature of the deal, which caught many people by surprise. Other than maybe some pressure from investors, Huffington did not have to accept an offer because the Huffington Post was growing in terms of pageviews and advertising revenue.

For whatever reason, Huffington Post’s writers might have felt as if they were members of an exclusive club as opposed to a place that just accepted anyone who could write. Maybe this sense of entitlement caused them to believe they were part of the business.

The reality is they were part of the editorial machine, which is fuelled by free content. Writing for free is a trade-off they accepted to gain membership into the Huffington Post and the status it provides writers. In return for free content, writers have a new way to build their personal brand and reach a wide audience. If they made a deal with the devil, they received attractive compensation.

Perhaps the bigger issue raised by the AOL-Huffington Post deal is how much free content is created online – whether it’s high profile publications, crowdsourcing/citizen journalism sites, or the millions of bloggers pumping content each and every day.

This is a huge challenge for publications that pay their writers because the competition has a huge economic advantage – and lower operating costs. This dynamic is a major part of an evolving marketplace in which the economic rules are still being established. AOL’s purchase of the Huffington Post simply exposed a financial reality of online publishing.

New Sysomos Report: How the Blogosphere Uses YouTube Videos

It may be a 500-channel television universe but the real action when it comes to what people are watching is videos, particularly YouTube videos.

We were curious about how bloggers use YouTube videos so we analyzed 2.5 million unique YouTube videos that had been embedded into blog posts or featured links between July and December, 2009. Here’s the complete report.

Some of the highlights include:

- There is no clear correlation between the rating of the video on YouTube and how often it is viewed. Videos with a rating of more than four out of five tend to have fewer views than those with a rating of two or three.

- Music videos are the most popular within blogs 31% of all analyzed videos, followed by entertainment (15%) and people and blogs (11%).

- 20-to-35 year old bloggers are most active in embedding and linking to videos within their posts with 57% of total videos coming from this demographic group.

- The average YouTube video within blogs is four minutes and 12 seconds, and the average number of views is 99,160.

You can find the YouTube/Blogosphere report here. The report also includes links to the most popular videos within the blogosphere.

The other special reports that Sysomos has published on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook are here.